Welcome to VirtualSC PD! We strive to provide high-quality online professional development through both renewal and graduate courses for certified educators in South Carolina to use towards certification renewal, add-on endorsements, and technology proficiency to prepare educators to lead students to become college and career ready.
The Student Orientation is designed to provide you with the important information you will need to be successful in taking a course with the VirtualSC PD program. Here, you will gain answers to many questions that you probably already have, such as:
- Who do I contact for assistance with my course?
- How do I navigate in the VirtualSC PD websites, and in my course?
- Are there rules that I must follow while completing my course?
- How do I complete and submit assignments?
- How do I check my progress?
- How do I communicate with my facilitator?
You must complete the Student Orientation before beginning work in your course. Click on each of the 12 Tabs included on this page. When you finish this orientation, you will complete a Participant Contract and a Quiz in Moodle. This will alert your facilitator that you are ready to begin the course!
Online learning can present its own set of challenges, especially for those who’ve never participated in an online course before. Here are a few simple tips to help you overcome these challenges and be successful.
It may seem obvious, but your computer will be your ‘best friend’ when it comes to online learning. As we all know, best friends can sometimes let us down – they are human after all! To get the most out of your new best friend, consider the following tips:
- Make sure to use a reliable computer. If your home computer frequently freezes, or loses your work, choose to use a work computer, or borrow one from a friend.
- Connect to your VirtualSC PD courses via high-speed Internet access. While high-speed internet is not a requirement for taking VirtualSC PD courses, your experience in the course will be much improved if you use high-speed. If you don’t have high-speed at home, work from another location to give yourself the best experience possible.
- Your course will be available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As such, you may begin work, and not finish it until later. You must learn to save your work every time you step away from your computer.
- Save copies of all of your VirtualSC PD course work in two locations. You may want to save to a folder on your desktop, and a flash drive. Or possibly to an external hard drive and a flash drive. Or to the computer hard drive/desktop and a flash drive. Whatever you choose, make sure that you’re always retaining two (or more) copies/backups of all course work assignments. This plan will ensure that you never completely lose an assignment, and keep you from losing unsaved work.
Computer and internet access excuses will never be accepted for failure to complete your VirtualSC PD work. So make sure you are prepared!
Being online is the way that you “attend” class with VirtualSC PD. Use these tricks to ensure your attendance is not jeopardized:
- Establish a backup plan for technology issues. If your computer fails, plan to work in another location. Smartphones also work well in an emergency, but make sure that you have the apps downloaded that will help you do the work.
- You may work on our courses any time of day or night; there is no set time you must be on the computer (unless a synchronous meeting is a course requirement).
- If enrolled in a facilitated course, you must meet deadlines set by your facilitator each week. If you do not meet these deadlines, you may be dropped from the course.
- The way to learn in an online course is to read everything carefully. Watch all of the videos included in your course, visit all of the websites your facilitator tells you to visit, and follow all directions to the letter.
- Keep up with all announcements sent by your facilitator in the course News Forum.
- All assignments are due during the active session week. Unless prior arrangements were made and agreed to with the adjunct, then late assignments will not be accepted and will be awarded a zero (0) in the gradebook due to not meeting the assignment deadline. If the participant communicates with the adjunct prior to the deadline and gets an extension, it is up to adjunct to deduct points for being late on the rubric (the adjunct will use professional judgement).
Online learning requires a certain amount of independence and self-discipline, and can prove quite challenging if you don’t possess these two skills. Consider the ideas below to help you stay on pace with your online class, and keep your learning on track!
Schedule time to work on your online class.
Because your online class is available to you 24/7, there are no “scheduled” hours for you to work. You need to make this decision yourself. If you do not set a scheduled time to work on your courses, you will find that your spare time gets filled up with other things. So, decide when you are going to work on your class and stick to it!
Work through your courses in order, using your personal judgment.
It’s best not to skip around within a course, because your facilitator has written and designed it to flow together in a certain order. If you jump around to different points in the course, you may become confused. So generally, you will want to follow the course in order. However, if you get stuck on an assignment, post a question in the Help forum and then move ahead! You can come back to a confusing assignment later.
Consider your own body clock and physical needs when scheduling your class time.
Everyone has certain times of day when they are more alert and capable. Try to choose times of day when you are rested and ready to learn. Also, you will work more productively if you are not hungry or thirsty. While working on your class, take breaks to rest your eyes and brain! Staring at a computer screen for too long can strain your eyes and give you a headache. Also, stop and stretch your arms and neck from time to time. Do your best to avoid unnecessary distractions.
Chart your progress through the course in a visible manner.
Many participants are surprised to realize that they are behind pace, because it seems like they have been on the computer so much. However, when you mark off completed assignments on a chart, you know exactly where you stand in your course at all times.
Expect the unexpected!
You have a limited time frame to complete your course. It’s a good idea to work ahead and to plan for the unexpected. You might get sick, experience computer problems; have an urgent personal issue come up, etc. Manage your work so that any of these problems don’t prevent you from meeting your deadlines.
Always communicate with your facilitator!
If you are getting stuck or things seem to be taking too long, your facilitator can help. Be sure to reach out!
Facilitators for VirtualSC PD use multiple ways to communicate with students. Any and all communication you have with your facilitator, VirtualSC PD administration, or your classmates should follow widely accepted rules of Netiquette. Netiquette is basically etiquette for the Internet.
Consider these basic Netiquette rules for all communications pertaining to VirtualSC PD coursework:
- Rule 1: Remember the ‘human’.
- Rule 2: Adhere to the same standards of behavior online that you follow in real life.
- Rule 3: Know where you are in cyberspace.
- Rule 4: Respect other people’s time and bandwidth.
- Rule 5: Make yourself look good online.
- Rule 6: Share expert knowledge.
- Rule 7: Help keep flame wars under control.
- Rule 8: Respect other people’s privacy.
- Rule 9: Don’t abuse your power.
- Rule 10: Be forgiving of other people’s mistakes.
Read more about each of these rules here.
VirtualSC PD’s facilitators work on a part-time basis; they all hold other professional jobs working in the field of education. They will have their work hours posted within your Moodle course. You are welcome to call facilitators during their posted work hours, or leave voice mail if you cannot reach them. Facilitators will return your calls as soon as they can, and will respond within 24 hours of the initial contact Monday through Friday. If you contact your facilitator on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, you should receive a response the following Monday. When you leave a voice mail, leave a detailed message including, at a minimum, the items below:
- First and last name
- Phone number
- Name of the course you are taking that they are facilitating
You may also use Skype to chat with your facilitator during their posted work hours. Skype is free to download here, and can be installed on multiple devices, i.e., computer desktops, tablets, and smartphones. Our facilitators primarily use the chat feature. Of course, email is always a good choice to reach your facilitator. In addition to the choices of communicate above, you may also make an appointment with your facilitator to discuss concerns, issues, or gain individual guidance.
OpenSIS is the registration system that VirtualSC PD currently uses. You will always need to log in through OpenSIS to access Moodle.
Moodle is the Learning Management System used by VirtualSC PD. Moodle is actually an acronym, which stands for Modular Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. Entering Moodle is like entering a hallway in a traditional brick-and-mortar school. On this hall, you will find your classroom(s).
Watch the following video on how to access and navigate around in your course.
When you take an online course, you assume responsibility for maintaining the necessary technology to be successful in that course.
As long as you have Internet access, you can take courses with VirtualSC PD. High speed cable access is the best if it will fit into your family’s budget. DSL would be the second choice. You may need to go to a location with a faster Internet connection, such as your school or a public library, to view video content if you have a slower connection. Shop around and compare Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Ask your parents, other teachers, and friends how they rate their ISP.
The following are some browser requirements/extensions that you will want to ensure you have installed:
Before getting started with a VirtualSC PD course, determine if you have a computer that will allow you to be successful. Take time to look at the list below in order to understand what you will need:
- 1+ Ghz machine, preferably running Windows 10
- If on a MAC then Intel chip Mac running OSX 10.10+
- Minimum of 10 GB free HDD space
- A broadband connection, 3+ Mb/s, is strongly recommended
- Windows 7, 8 (Chrome, Firefox or Opera instead of IE)
- Windows 10 (Chrome, Edge, Firefox, or Opera instead of IE11)
- Microsoft Office, Open Office or Google Docs/Drive (Some Computer courses require Microsoft Office which will be notated within course registration)
- 1+ GB RAM, preferably 4+ GB
- Display setting 1024×768 resolution or higher
- Users need a method to save work to a portable/re-writable medium (USB, cloud)
- Audio: Sound card with speakers, microphone or headset
Over the years, we’ve had many questions that seem to continue to come up many times. Take a few minutes to read over the technical requirements FAQs we’ve compiled below:
Question: How do I know if my computer has everything it needs?
Answer: The easiest way to make sure your computer has the browser requirements it needs is to run a System Test, like the one here. If your computer is missing any plug-ins, the System Test will give you the links to install them.
Question: My computer came with Microsoft Works. Is that an OK Word Processor?
Answer: No. Microsoft Works has trouble with formatting many files. Please download Open Office for free here, if your course has Word files it asks you to download.
Question: What if my computer fails?
Answer: Technology is wonderful, but it does fail. It tends to fail just before an important deadline. For this reason, it is very important to have a back-up plan. Technical issues are not acceptable reasons for missing deadlines. Before you start your course, develop a ‘Plan B’. Some things to consider are:
- Where will you work if your normal internet service goes down?
- Whose computer can you borrow if yours breaks or gets a virus?
- Where will you get your computer fixed if something happens to it?
- If your printer breaks, where in your area can you print any required materials?
Making your Plan B now will keep you from having to scramble at the last minute and will keep your grade from dropping due to technical failures.
VirtualSC PD courses require you to create and upload a variety of different assignment types to the course. Consider each of the following best practices for completing. saving, and uploading assignments.
- Be sure to save your work on your computer in a folder named specifically for your VirtualSC PD course.
- Most assignments need to be submitted in a PDF format; assignment directions will specify file type required.
- Click here for directions on how to convert different file formats to PDF.
- When you name files that you submit, follow the naming convention described in the assignment.
- All assignments are due during the active session week. Unless prior arrangements are made and agreed to with the facilitator, then late assignments will not be accepted and will be awarded a zero (0) in the gradebook.
- In the assignments, you are required to cite evidence from the course session readings. This lets your facilitator know that you are interacting with the course materials.
Watch the video below to learn how to submit an assignment in Moodle:
How to Submit an Assignment
Participating in discussion forums is an important feature of all facilitated VirtualSC PD renewal and graduate courses.
- Forums allow you to share your questions and ideas with other students.
- Past participants have shared that forums have enhanced their professional growth.
- In the discussion forum each week, you will be asked to synthesize the readings and resources you’ve been assigned. (An exception to this would be in a self-paced, non-facilitated renewal course from VirtualSC PD.)
- Make sure that you refer to the Forum Guidelines and Discussion Forum Rubric found in the course when posting to forums and replying to others.
- In the forums, you will cite evidence from the readings. This lets the facilitator know that you are interacting with the course materials.
Watch the video below to see how to create an initial forum post:
Posting in Forums
It is your responsibility to keep up with your progress and grades. Many past participants find that using the suggested pacing guides each week kept them on track. Watch the following video to see how you can check your grades and view feedback.
Viewing Your Progress
You also need to understand how to gain check marks next to session items, and the corresponding Dashboard course completion percentage.
- Many courses have “activity completion” check boxes which are visual aids to see how you’re progressing during the course.
- Session Books will get a check once all pages in the book have been viewed
- Forums will get a check once 3 replies have been posted
- Assignments will get a check once an assignment is submitted for a grade
- Quizzes will get a check once the quiz has been completed and automatically graded.
- All other items can be manually checked by the participant
- Check marks do not effect grades. They are only a point of reference for the participants to see what may still need to be completed in a session
- The Dashboard percentage does not reflect your actual grade, it tracks what has been viewed or submitted in the actual course area.
- Always refer to the actual Grades area on the left-hand menu to see if an assignment has been graded.
- For assignments and forums that use rubrics you will view the feedback from within the Open Grader; click on the gear icon at top right and choose Open Grader from the drop-down menu.
- Facilitators are required to complete the previous session grades by 5:00 PM on Thursdays.
VirtualSC PD graduate courses use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra as our webinar software used for virtual meetings.
- Graduate credit VirtualSC PD courses require attendance via Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.
- The VirtualSC PD graduate course facilitators host three Blackboard Collaborate Ultra webinar sessions during the course. Directions to access virtual meetings are provided during the course.
- You should attend all three sessions; however, if you need to miss part or all of a webinar, it will be recorded.
- All sessions have a brief quiz to track attendance. The quiz will be posted under the webinar link in the course session where it occurs.
Watch the video below to learn how to access your Blackboard Ultra meeting and to learn how to view a recording of your meeting if you missed the live session.
Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Video
There are multiple ways that you can join a Blackboard Collaboration Ultra session!
- If you need to access the webinar using a mobile device (Smartphone, iPad, or other tablet), be sure to download the free Blackboard Student App ahead of time. At the time of the session, log in to the application, click on the access link and then choose “Open this page in BB Student.” Enter your full name, and click on “Join as Guest.” You will not be able to join the session by going into the application and trying to search for our organization or session; this is not an option.
- If accessing Blackboard Collaborate Ultra with a computer or laptop, log in to your course using the recommended browsers (Google Chrome or Firefox).
- Once in, open another browser tab and go to the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Basics Tour, which will walk you through the basic navigation of Blackboard Collaborate Ultra for participants.